Characteristic Checklist/Autism

Is your child nonverbal? Or have you noticed that the language he/she does have, doesn’t sound quite “right”? Do you believe your child is not reaching age appropriate milestones? If this is the case, your child might have a language or communication disorder.

Kyla Boyse, a registered nurse at the University of Michigan Health System, says,If your child is not on track with the following speech/language development milestones, you should talk to your pediatrician.” (Boyse, K. R.N, University of Michigan Health System. 2012) Speech and language milestones for a typical child are as follows:

Age Language Level
Birth Cries
2-3 months Cries differently in different circumstances; coos in response to you
3-4 months Babbles randomly
5-6 months Babbles rhythmically
6-11 months Babbles in imitation of real speech, with expression
12 months Says 1-2 words; recognizes name; imitates familiar sounds; understands simple instructions
18 months Uses 5-20 words, including names
Between 1 and 2 years Says 2-word sentences; vocabulary is growing; waves goodbye; makes “sounds” of familiar animals; uses words (like “more”) to make wants known; understands “no”
Between 2 and 3 years Identifies body parts; calls self “me” instead of name; combines nouns and verbs; has a 450 word vocabulary; uses short sentences; matches 3-4 colors, knows big and little; likes to hear same story repeated; forms some plurals
Between 3 and 4 years Can tell a story; sentence length of 4-5 words; vocabulary of about 1000 words; knows last name, name of street, several nursery rhymes
Between 4 and 5 years Sentence length of 4-5 words; uses past tense; vocabulary of about 1500 words; identifies colors, shapes; asks many questions like “why?” and “who?”
Between 5 and 6 years Sentence length of 5-6 words; vocabulary of about 2000 words; can tell you what objects are made of; knows spatial relations (like “on top” and “far”); knows address; understands same and different; identifies a penny, nickel and dime; counts ten things; knows right and left hand; uses all types of sentences

(Boyse, K. R.N, University of Michigan Health System. 2012)

If you notice that your infant is not babbling or cooing, or your toddler is not imitating familiar sounds or is not beginning to build a vocabulary, it is possible that your child might need to be evaluated for a language disorder. If your two year old is not combining a noun and a verb in conversation, or is not interested in hearing stories, or can’t identify any of his/her body parts you should see about having them evaluated. By the ages of three and four a typical child is well on their way to a one thousand word vocabulary.

A language or communication disorder occurs when an individual either does not understand what someone is telling him/her, receptive language, or is unable to share their thoughts or feelings in words which is expressive language. (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. n.d.) Communication is a constant back and forth of both understanding and expressing language.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders will, most likely, have language delays. Their delays will be in both receptive and expressive language.

This is a checklist of language delay characteristics to look for if you suspect your child might have a language disorder.

  1. Does the infant follow the gaze of his/her caregiver?

  2. Does the infant engage in a shared focus on objects or other people, coordinated joint attention? (Adamson & Chance, 1998)

  3. Does the child point at objects to show interest or desire for that object?

  4. Does the child attend to speech ( Osterling & Dawson, 1994; Paul & Sutherland, 2005) and is he/she communicating with others around him/her?

  5. Does the child repeat language, echolalia, (Fay, 1980b) in unusual ways?

  6. Does the child have a one thousand word vocabulary between the ages of three and four?

  7. Is the child having a difficult time understanding and correctly using pronouns? (Fay, 1980b) Is he/she confused by gender?

  8. Is the child talking in a mechanical or wooden sounding, voice? (Fay, 1980b; Tager-Flusberg et al., 2011)

  9. Does the child perseverate on a favorite topic, not appearing to care if others lose interest in the topic?

  10. Does the child understand pragmatics knowing the context of language? (Tager-Flusberg et al., 2011) Does he/she understand the nuances of language ? Does he/she understand jokes, sarcasm, or social cues? Is he/she very literal with his/her language?

The language characteristics that are mentioned above are predictors of a language disorder. If any of these issues describe your child, he/she should be evaluated by a professional. Early intervention is extremely beneficial to those children with language disorders.


Adamson, L. B., & Chance, S. E. (1998). Coordinating attention to people, objects, and language. In A. M. Wetherby, S. F. Warren, & J. Reichle (Eds.), Transitions in prelinguistic communication  (pp. 15-38). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes

What Is Language? What Is Speech?

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d). What is Language? What is Speech?. website:

This article helps to explain the difference between speech and language disorders.

Speech and Language Delay and Disorder: Your Child: University of Michigan Health System

Boyse, K, R.N. for the University of Michigan Health System. (2012, November). Speech and Language Delay and Disorder. website:

Ms. Boyse discusses the milestones in child speech and language development.

Dawson et al 2004 Dev PSychology.pdf

Dawson,G., Toth, K., Abbott, R., Osterling, J., Munson, J. Estes, A., Liaw, J.(2004). Early Social Attention Impairments in Autism: Social Orienting, Joint Attention, and Attention to Distress. Developmental Psychology, 40, 271-283

Failure to attend to speech is a strong predictor of autism.

Hall, Laura J., (2013). Autism Spectrum Disorder: From Theory to Practice. Pearson Education, Inc.

References to Paul & Sutherland, 2005, Fay 1980b, and Tager-Flusberg, 2011 were found on page 174 in chapter eight, Focus on Communication. These references were used when discussing language delay characteristics.

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